Chapter Eight

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The seven o'clock hour was close at hand, though time stood still all day. She'd hoped the afternoon hours spent in some of the more exclusive shops would have helped pass the time. But the anticipation of seeing him again and the hope of continuing what had started on a deserted street could not be suppressed with the mundane task of shopping. A task, in fact, that Claire actually loathed. She did, however, strike gold in a small boutique in Knightsbridge and she now stood before the full length mirror examining her purchase. The classic little black dress. She'd questioned the slightly revealing neckline and shorter-than-usual hemline under the harsh fluorescent lights in the tiny dressing room. But now, with Jay just minutes away, she knew she'd made the right choice. And with the addition of a taffeta trench coat in a dramatic shade of gunmetal, she was anything but a once reserved, studious girl. Her blond locks were styled in soft, loose waves, and she ran her hand through her hair one last time before flipping off the bathroom light.

With a quick glance around the suite, she smiled. After much debate and at Hamish's insistence she conceded, agreeing to finish out the weekend at the stylish boutique hotel. Solo. She'd tidied up, leaving only the bouquet, his freshly cleaned tuxedo jacket, and the bunny slippers in plain view. She transferred the necessary contents of her large handbag to a petite beaded clutch bag she'd found earlier that day in another high-end boutique. She'd just dropped a tube of lipstick in her bag when a soft rap sounded behind her. With a deep breath, she crossed the room and opened the door.

As eager as he was to whisk her off, Jay stood immobile in the hallway upon sight of her. Though she'd looked beautiful the night before, dressed in a soft, flowing gown that highlighted her eyes, she was now something completely different. He paused a moment as his mind shuffled through a list of possible adjectives. Striking didn't begin to cover it. Suddenly the feeling that consumed him the night before as he'd held her on the dance floor caused his heart to beat faster. Much faster.

"Good evening." Claire smiled slyly.

"You look absolutely stunning."

"Thank you. I wasn't sure what you'd planned. I hope this is alright." She touched the lapel of the stylish trench.

"You look incredible."

"I just need to get my purse. And I had your jacket sent out. Thank you again." She stepped back away from the door and he took a few steps inside the suite. Immediately he noticed two large bouquets side by side on the coffee table.

"You certainly have your share of admirers."

"Those came this morning. From Hamish. And Molly." Claire dropped her room key in her purse.

"A thank you for last night?"

"Actually it's more like an apology."

"Apology?"

"It's a long story. And one I'd like to forget about tonight."

"Maybe I should send Hamish some flowers. For stealing his best girl away from his party."

"It's fine. And besides, he has someone to fill the Best Girl role...for the moment anyway." She tucked her purse under her arm and turned to him with a smile.

"Shall we?" He asked.

"Let's go."

He offered his elbow just as he had the night before inside the dimly lit conservatory. She linked her arm through his with a grin, and he swung his freshly pressed tuxedo jacket over his shoulder.

"How do you feel about French?" He asked as a cab pulled to a stop in front of them.

"I can count to ten, ask for directions to the beach, and order a Coke. Why?" She asked.

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